The Reverie

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The Reverie; mixed media, cradled wood panel, 18 x 24 x 1.75 inches. More pictures here.

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A Sunday trip to the library morphs into a broken conversation with a shrugging security guard about a locked door –– “It’s summer hours,” she explains. “But you can still use the book return!” Hooray. So Oona and I wander the mall for awhile, waiting on mom to do some shopping. Almost instantly I find myself in Claire’s, where I get conned into buying a two-piece charm bracelet that reads BEST FRIENDS. “I’ll make my bed, daddy,” Oona lies, because that’s her currency instead of money. I shrug. I give in. BEST FRIENDS. Then we wander some more. Everyone looks like extras from a pirate movie; there are limps, eye patches, tattoos, blindness, crutches, more blindness, hips where hips don’t belong, brown and blue teeth, horizontal facial scars, missing fingers, invented hairstyles, ballooning outfits with stars on them. The psychic weight is crushing.

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Halfway through my morning shower, the water pressure falls by half and my entire world view reasserts itself, comes into focus: people are going to do what they are going to do. Certainly I can storm upstairs, half-soaped and fully crazed, and ask, Are we all done running water yet? Certainly right is right. But where does that kind of thinking get me? Right is never right. These days, ‘right’ is more of a shrug. The whole reason I get up first in the morning, long before anyone else, is to go around problems like this. And going around these things, I think, is the key. A guy comes into my office with some marked-up photocopy of a job that I’ve never seen and says, I don’t have any of the text or pictures for this, how long will it take to do? Certainly, How about never? feels about right. But then he’s going lose his nut, and sooner than later I’ll have my manager in my office, bursting at the hairline trying to manage something. So I say, Leave it with me, let me take a better look at it, I’m just having some computer issues right now, and I just have this other job to finish first, there’s this thing with this other person tomorrow, but I’ll get to it as soon as I can. And then I take a long lunch, and leave early, and the day after that I’m on holiday for a week.

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Listening to Naomi Klein on Democracy Now!, and the interlude music is some Ani DiFranco song, I might as well be in a dream where it’s 1999 and I’m sitting in front of a red velour curtain in some musty theatre in Winnipeg, and some girl with ripped jeans and dirty hair is explaining to me how wrong I am about everything, and how I really need to read the I Ching and get my teeth fixed.

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I need to start running again. For months this winter I trained for the Limestone 5K, all the way from only being able to run 90 seconds at a time to going the entire distance without pause. I ran every second day, without fail. I ran when there was no one else out there, often late at night, in the cold and the dark. And on the morning of April 30th, in freezing rain, I ran the race. Ta-dah. And then we went to Cuba for a week. And then: June. Goals have a way of deflating themselves.

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It’s the staff barbecue so I take the day off. I believe that work is meant to be work –– not a place to fulfill your dreams, not a place to make best friends, not a place where people know anything about you, not even a place to score free hotdogs. The ideal situation is to be the polite person at the end of the hall with a job description that coworkers don’t understand or care about. Also, if management wants to show me how much they care, then please spend that hotdog money on institutional improvements. How about clean bathrooms? How about coffee in the kitchen? How about air-conditioning? How many mission statements read like conspiracy theory. Anyway, excellence now!

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No real plan in the studio lately. I’d been set to move out –– briefly, there had been a person known to police in the studio next door –– and then the situation resolved itself, and it was if some kind of reset button had been pushed. So I’ve been painting large paintings, with a mind for icons and characters. All painting is therapy, and the works themselves just relics for the cult of beautiful but pointless posterity.

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People walking around downtown in two of three dimensions on a Friday night and I think, Is it Mental Health Week again? Forever? In Kingston, at least. A woman tells me that Jesus loves me. Another is swearing at her two chihuahuas. At least they’re on a leash. The people in front of the McDonalds look like the Apple Dumpling Gang on opioids. Purple gums, yellow fingers.

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It’s summer, I guess. Men walking around in shorts, white chicken leg embarrassment. The women on the cover of the magazines by the checkout have lustrous dark hair parted straight down the middle, their hairlines an inch above the eyebrow. People squinting at things. More humidity than heat. Oona has a final ‘play’ for her acting class; the teachers say the lines for the kids, then the kids repeat them. I guess that’s how we do things now.

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large paintings, lately

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how distressing it was … how glorious and radiant and mine forever; mixed media on cradled wood panel, 24 x 30 x 1.75 inches. *sold*

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So I’m back to big paintings again. This seems to happen from time to time, in the same way that sometimes I only want to work with small things, to create art objects. Still, paintings are different. They are not art objects. Their size, their presence in a room, is a thing unto itself. A painting never needs to be explained.

 

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The Little Queen, VII; mixed media on cradled wood panel, 24 x 30 x 1.75 inches. *sold*

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I think you can grow tired of the fussiness of little work, of art objects. Things needing tags. Whereas with a painting, you walk into a room and go to work and don’t come out until you have something. You treat it roughly. Something is made from nothing, and there’s an interrogation along the way.

 

thesummer1x

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The Summer, XIX; an original mixed media painting on cradled wood panel, 24 x 30 x 1 3/4 inches, here.

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By its very nature, a painting reaches for the iconic. So I’ve been thinking in those terms –– about symbolic things, as if a painting could be a missing card from the Major Arcana.

 

theworld1x

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The World, XXI; an original mixed media painting on cradled wood panel, 24 x 30 x 1 3/4 inches, here.

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Anyway, it’s all that I want to do right now, so it better work. And isn’t that the last words of any artist?

yesterday is a fortune teller

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yesterday is a fortune teller with blood on her hands / ink painting on found paper / 6 x 9 inches / the blank inside title page from an old book


Lately, I’ve been thinking about time, about how to make it, or gain on it, when it constantly conspires against you. We all dream of getting up earlier or staying up later, of going to the gym and getting fit or writing some novel over lunch. But there’s a reason the marine ranks are made of children.


The Four of Cups features prominently in a scene from Blood Meridian; it is the card chosen by the Kid, reflecting his divided nature.

library card art pack number 14

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three original drawings in pencil, ink and wash on vintage library cards (the kind that used to sit in a pocket attached to the back inside cover, and would be stamped by the librarian at sign-out) ; marks from the card’s use (signatures, stamps, etc) appear in the background ; the cards with the most age (sun yellowing, stains, etc) and marks are the ones I like best; usually 3 x 5 inches; titles are: Monopoly, Victoria & Albert, and unknown (too obscured)


working in a trailer these days, and blasted by air-conditioning, to the point where I go outside to warm up, and feel strange all the way through

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oh martin, you fool!

oh martin you fool / an original painting on cradled wood panel / 24 x 36 x 1 inches

well there’s this poetry reading …
oh martin, you fool!
i’ve got my man all picked out
he’s a german film star

– more photos are here

– there’s a great many layers and texture to this one, including book pages embedded in the priming coat

– i wanted the colours to be a bit delirious, as if the world were a swirling club

– two months to go on my leave-without-pay!

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blue kangaroo (two)

 

blue kangaroo two, mixed media on cradled wood panel, 20 x 40 x 1.5 inches.

There is another blue kangaroo (the first, if you will) who decorates my sister-in-law’s office with clouds and rain drops and a blueness that deliquesces almost entirely into cyan. A coworker of my sister-in-law’s expressed an admiration for this original blue kangaroo, and a desire to purchase any sequels.

Well, here it is.

I don’t mind painting things on pure speculation, because it’s all speculation, in the end: I’m trying to invest objects with the power of pleasing an unknown, unseen someone (not everyone, as that’s the autobahn to mediocrity). I mean, it’s all a bit of a magic act. Is this your card? Is this your painting?

So we’ll see where this goes. If nowhere, I still have it, and I’ll try to sell it elsewhere. And sometimes these things just end up in our own home.

In the meantime, it’s nice to be doing some larger work again.

p.s. Those horizontal lines you see are lengths of twine, which I’ve used to lash the wood panel to the easel… and then I’ve primed and painted them right into the picture. You can see other examples here.